IRS to taxpayer: Buyer beware

The Internal Revenue Service is warning taxpayers to avoid  fly-by-night tax "professionals" by asking for the Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), required of paid tax preparers to avoid possible legal headaches for improper deductions or filing errors.

Reputable preparers ask multiple questions about expenses and deductions, tell clients to keep good records, sign the tax return and include the PTIN,  IRS spokesman Mark Green said. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund, who claim to obtain larger refunds than  counterparts or who ask taxpayers to sign a blank form, he said.